Everyone knows Rocky, the story of a hard-luck boxer offered a chance at redemption. The trouble with Rocky the musical, currently bobbing and weaving at the Winter Garden Theatre, is that it relies too much on our knowledge of and feelings for the characters rather than introducing them anew.
The production feels like a rushed, fist-pumping reenactment of the Oscar-winning movie’s greatest hits (Rocky pummeling sides of beef, drinking raw eggs, climbing the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art). With the exception of the crowd-pleasing “Eye of the Tiger,” the songs are mostly unmemorable. The romantic scenes between Rocky (Andy Karl) and Adrian, played by the talented Margo Seibert, attempt to ground the production in the central love story, but by the second half, we’re so punch-drunk from jab after jab of Rocky all-star moments, the storyline loses its hook.
The only real surprises come from Chris Barreca’s impressive set, which ultimately steals the show. For the final bout, the boxing ring extends out over the first seven or so rows of the theater (after the audience is reseated onstage) and rotates beneath a video scoreboard. It’s a thrilling moment of technical wizardry; unfortunately, an elaborate set and clever directing by Alex Timbers aren’t enough to beef up this featherweight.